Spanish is one of the most widespread and diverse languages on the planet. With approximately 480 million native speakers across the globe, Spanish is the 4th most spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese, English, and Hindustani. Belonging to the Romance family, Spanish is related to a host of other common languages, such as Italian, French, and English.
Since there are so many languages to choose from, many students struggle with which language to tackle after mastering Spanish. There is a wide range of considerations that we must take before selecting a language to study. Learning languages takes time and effort, and learning the right one can be very advantageous to us as language learners.
For example, choosing to learn another Romance language after Spanish can make it much easier to learn the basics. Since there are many different similarities in both the grammar and vocabularies of these languages, the amount of new information that we must master as a student is minimized. The most difficult areas you will have to focus on are the differences in things like pronunciation, conjugation, and syntax.
By contrast, if you choose to learn Japanese after Spanish, there are only extremely rare vocabulary influences you will recognize. Almost every aspect of the language will be new to you, and you won’t be able to rely on your current understanding of language in order to move forward. This is why learning another Romance language after Spanish is recommended.
Before going through a few different options for languages to study after Spanish, we’re going to review a few key points and important things to consider before selecting a language to learn. We’ll also talk a bit about Romance languages, and the different similarities and differences you can expect to find between languages. If you’re interested in any of these options, or any language, the best first step is to read up on it and educate yourself on what to expect.
The Romance language family is one of the most widely spoken language families in the world today. Modern Romance languages can trace their roots back to the Vulgar Latin commonly spoken in the Roman Empire. Because of this, many Romance languages have common grammatical structures and vocabulary words.
Other Romance languages include French, Italian, Portuguese, and Catalan. Although these are your best bet for languages to study after Spanish, there are a lot of important things to consider before choosing one. All of them have similarities and differences that may give you trouble.
If there are any aspects of Spanish that you find particularly difficult, then choosing a language to study next which minimizes those aspects will make your life easier. On the other hand, there could be other differences which make the language harder. For example, French is considered trickier to pronounce than Spanish, despite the spoken language being arguably easier from a grammatical standpoint.
Of course, it is very difficult to judge the objective difficulty of languages. How easy it is to learn a language will depend entirely on your learning style and prior knowledge, as well as your dedication and study methods. We can make it easier on ourselves by choosing the right language to study, but it doesn’t make studying any less serious or demanding.
For these reasons, it is more important to consider the differences between two languages, rather than their similarities, when considering which one to learn. For Spanish, the other Romance languages differ in a wide variety of ways, with each posing its own challenges. When considering these differences, there are a few ways of thinking about it.
For example, many people view Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian in a kind of continuum. Especially when Catalan, Occitan, and Corsican are included, this continuum demonstrates a definitive gradient of structural and vocabulary similarities. This can be contrasted with, for example, Romanian, which despite being a Romance language, has been heavily influenced by Slavic languages around it, resulting in greater differences.
The Options At Our Disposal
Now that we’ve gotten a few of those ideas out of the way, we’re going to go through a few of the major choices of Romance languages to learn after Spanish. We won’t go into too much detail, but we will list a few major differences that will be of interest for those who have already mastered Spanish. Reading more about Romance languages, and how they are related to each other can help supplement this information quite a bit.
- French retains the grammatical genders that Spanish uses, but there are a few key differences. First off is pronunciation. French has a few sounds which are difficult for Spanish speakers to master if they have never learned them before. Another important consideration is that written French is much more rigid and complex than Spanish, while Spanish is considered more difficult for speaking and listening.
- Portuguese is a language that has developed quite intimately with Spanish but has many pronunciation differences which make it difficult to understand for Spanish speakers. The written language is much easier to understand as a Spanish speaker, but practicing the pronunciation will be a very important factor when going with Portuguese. There are also some words which are masculine in Portuguese, but feminine in Spanish, which can add some confusion.
- Catalan is a language spoken in the Catalonia region of Spain. While it has a lot of deep similarities with Spanish, it has actually been influenced significantly by French, as well. The most obvious way to demonstrate this is by looking at the numbers one through ten in French, Spanish, and Catalan. The Catalan words are spelled closer to their French equivalents but pronounced more like their Spanish counterparts.
- Italian is probably the best bet for many people who have already mastered Spanish. There are many similarities in terms of grammar and vocabulary, and the grammar itself is actually easier. There are some major pronunciation differences, but they are not as difficult to learn as the differences between Portuguese or German.
- German is an interesting choice and can be surprisingly easy for some people who have already learned Spanish. Once you learn to read and recognize German words, you will be surprised how much of it you actually recognize. The grammar is admittedly more strict and complex, however.
These are some of the main choices, but there are many other options at your disposal. You can even consider other languages that may have some commonality with Spanish. Basque, for example, is a language isolate but has some interesting commonalities with Spanish.
Going with a commonly spoken option that will have lots of resources available is always a good idea. For this reason, it is recommended to go for languages such as the ones listed above. Going outside of the language family can make things a bit harder, but studying the languages that interest you will always make studying significantly easier, even if the languages themselves are harder.
Other Things To Consider
One thing that we touched on a bit earlier is the idea of minimizing difficulty with your language choices. In order to give you a more well-rounded idea of what we mean, we’re going to demonstrate this a bit further. The idea is that everybody learns languages differently, and prefers different methods of study.
These and other reasons make the question of language difficulty very subjective. It is almost impossible to tell which aspects of a language will be more difficult for somebody else. Thus it is important to identify aspects of language learning which specifically give you difficulty.
Good tutors will hone in on these areas as well. If you know that a certain language choice, like Italian, will minimize the difficulties you had learning Spanish, then that language is a good choice. Being aware of the difficulties and differences is important, but the general idea is to minimize difficulty.
Studying other areas of languages, such as linguistic history, can also be an enlightening avenue. When you understand where languages came from and how they are related to each other, it opens up your mind to how languages interact and mingle with one another. This kind of awareness is what makes it fun and enlightening to study a language.
In the end, language learning depends on you. You will find going forward that the difficulties you encounter every day while studying a new language will be different from every other student (and native speaker) around you. You will probably even start to notice how foreign speakers of English (or Spanish) have difficulties similar to the ones you have when using your new language.
These kinds of considerations and awareness are what makes language learning so fulfilling, and in fact, form the backbone of the motivation and dedicated effort necessary to learn the language in the first place. If you’re worried about which language is easiest after Spanish, your best bet is to read as much as you can about the languages that interest you the most. Although you can gain advantages by considering certain options thoroughly, your own desires and progress are what’s important in the end.